Art of City Building 2020 – Session 3: Inclusive Placemaking & Development

As part of the Art of City Building 2020 conference, we invited Andy Fillmore, Paul MacKinnon, Rodney Small, Jay Pitter, Albus Brooks, Uytae Lee, and Kimberly Driggins to discuss inclusive placemaking and development.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Engagement must be meaningful

Rodney Small hails from Halifax’s North End, a historically Black neighbourhood undergoing the pressures of gentrification. Small spoke about One North End (O.N.E.), a collective of community leaders dedicated to integrating marginalized voices into the planning process. He calls for the need to create “brave spaces”, settings which allow members of the community to truly speak their mind. This meaningful engagement has resulted in a concept plan for the vacant St. Patrick’s Alexandra School site that is rooted in the needs of the local Black community.

2. “Placemaking is personal”

The planning process calls on planners to be objective, but outcomes will have intimate consequences for the people who ultimately inhabit a space. Jay Pitter calls on the need for “ethical rule breaking.” Rather than ask for permission, placemakers must often move more quickly to action than bureaucracies will allow for. Pitter also stresses that the concept of ‘empowerment’ can be fraught, ignoring the reality that people are inherently powerful. When communities are mobilized, they move faster than bureaucracies.

3. Rebuilding cities is holy work

Albus Brooks invokes the concept of Shalom for rebuilders of the American city. He argues that city-building is holy, and seeks restoration, repair and inclusive prosperity. Brooks details the racist policies underlying the foundation of American cities. The economic uplifting of marginalized communities must go beyond providing entry-level jobs and foster the building of Black and Brown wealth. Inclusive wealth creation and social mobility go hand in hand.

4. The attitudes of today are informed by the biases of the past

Uytae Lee tells the story of Vancouver’s missing middle housing. The zoning ordinance of today’s Vancouver remain virtually unchanged since its introduction in 1930. The creation of single-family residential areas was as much about keeping certain people out as it was about preserving character and built form. According to Lee, in order to create more inclusive cities it helps to identify what exclusion looks like physically and culturally.

5. Focus on people instead of buildings

Kimberly Driggins calls on city builders to recognize their blind spots. Planners, architects and urban designers focus on built form and function, but addressing the challenges facing communities requires more than the skill sets these professions offer. Driggins encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing in experts from fields not traditionally part of the planning spectrum. By bringing in a diverse range of perspectives, innovative thinking can result in out-of-the-box solutions.

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

Paul McKinnon [00:00:28] Well, welcome to session three of the art of city building. And we’re going to go right away to the Member of parliament for Halifax Mr. Andy Fillmore.


Andy Filmore [00:00:37] Thanks, Paul. Good afternoon, everybody, it’s Andy Phillimore here, the MP in Halifax, where I’m coming to you live from my home.


Andy Filmore [00:00:44] I also have the great privilege of being parliamentary secretary to Canada’s MCnister of Infrastructure and communities, Catherine McKenna. But I’ll say that first and always, I’m a city planner and urban designer. So it’s such a thrill to spend today with a group of dedicated and forward thinking planners and city builders and place makers and people who care who have done so much to build better communities in Canada and around the world. I want to acknowledge for those of us joining from the Maritimes that we’re on the traditional unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq or Mi’gmaq people or where we are all treaty people. So this afternoon, we’re all excited to hear from these amazing panelists, some of whom are dear friends or are dear friends waiting to be made on the topic of placemaking. This is of great interest to me, not just from my past career as a city planner, but also as the first city planner elected to the Parliament of Canada. What took so long? I have no idea. But I have to tell you, I’m really, really happy to be there now.


Andy Filmore [00:01:41] I’d like to say say a special thanks to Kourosh and all of the organizers for another great HCB. They understand intimately that the notion of community is the very foundation of human civilization. And so that the kind of places that we make when we build our communities are fundamentally consequential to the health and happiness, fair treatment and the prosperity of all the people who live there. Now, as placemakers whether they ae hired or elected or whether we volunteer, our task is to make our communities feel like home by thinking big, by engaging with and authentically listening to the people that we serve. And by acting with all the dedication and perseverance that’s required to get good stuff done. Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep. And this brings me to a federal initiative that I worked on over the spring and summer called the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative. It was born out of the depths of the first wave of the pandemic when planners were being asked, and in fact, we’re asking ourselves, how can communities across Canada find the opportunity in this pandemic to build back better to rethink how our communities have served this in the past and what they can become tomorrow to meet the challenges of this moment and also to improve the quality of life beyond this moment. And one of the answers to this question that Catherine McKenna and I came up with is theCanadian Healthy Communities Initiative. This is an initiative that will invest thirty one million dollars in federal funds to help support community driven solutions, that will improve residents’ quality of life and help communities to build back better. There are three streams under which projects will be funded as Canadians return to their daily routines. The first is creating safe and vibrant public spaces. The second is supporting active transportation options, and the third is advancing digital solutions that help us to adapt to our new normal as that emerges. So with this new initiative, communities could, for example, expand community gardens to provide healthy, affordable food. They could install free Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces so that more people can get online and get connected in a democratic way. It could fund up fun, pop up projects for new bike lanes, for wider sidewalks to people to allow people to get outdoors while practicing safe social distancing. And they can refit and retrofit public spaces to allow our Main Street businesses to expand their footprint in small and creative ways that allow them to recover economically. Placemakers know what a difference projects like these can make in a neighborhood. And the opportunities are immense. Last week, an open call was issued so that we can identify eligible nongovernmental, not for profit organizations to administer the fund. So if your organization is interested or if you know of an organization, that would be perfect for this, the application deadline is coming up soon. October 16th.

After that, applications will open for local applicants seeking funding for grassroots placemaking projects. There’s a lot more info at or you can catch up with me anytime. I’m easy to find. So thank you for your kind attention. Now let’s get into the placemaking session with these incredible panelists. Thanks so much.


Paul McKinnon [00:05:03] Thank you very much, Mr. Fillmore. We all know that politicians are never wants to turn down invitations to speak. But I will say before his current job, Andy was a great city planner. I had the pleasure of working with him here in Halifax, and we did some great work together. A pleasure to work with. And he really is one of those folks that’s on our side. He’s been a big supporter of this conference since day one. So welcome to session three. My name is Paul McKinnon. And by day, I’m the CEO of the downtown Halifax Business Commission. We’re a business improvement district here in Halifax, one of nine in our beautiful city. And I’m also one of the co-founders of this event, the Art of City Building.


Paul McKinnon [00:05:36] And I’m very pleased to be here with you today. I’m very pleased to be in a room with the other co-founders. You can’t see them, but they’re here behind my screen. We’re kind of gathered spatially, distanced in a room here together.


Paul McKinnon [00:05:45] So it’s it’s almost like a little mini conference and excited to be joined from people from across Canada, across the U.S. and indeed from around the world. So this is the third session from today. It’s entitled Inclusive, Placemaking and Development. So in a conversation we had last week, we’re speaking with Julian Ageman, who was one of our speakers from the earlier session today. An amazing session. If you missed it, you will be able to get a recording of that. He made the observation that no one goes into city planning with bad intentions. Most of us are involved with planning and placemaking in some way. Certainly every one of us is impacted by it. And we need to be humble enough to acknowledge that, you know, things like today’s best planning may become tomorrow’s mistake. Good plans may still be the result of poor planning consultation processes. Good development may still displace people. Systemic racism is often overt, but oftentimes it is simply perpetuated when well-intentioned people are building off of past mistakes.That’s my initial take on it. We’re gonna get some different and dare I say, much more intelligent perspectives on this topic from a number of speakers. You’re in for a great session here. And at the end, after they speak individually, we can have a group conversation. So as as people are speaking, feel free to put to comments or questions in the chat function. We’re gonna try to monitor those and we’ll feed those into the session that we have at the end. And I’ll pop in in between each speaker to introduce them. So let’s move on to our first speaker. Our first speaker is from right here in Halifax. Like most cities, Halifax is still grappling with historic racism and dealing with the ongoing effects of resulting results of systemic racism. This is best personified in our community by the destruction of Africville a number of decades ago, and as the Black Lives Matter movement really kind of exploded, took off across the globe this past spring. The good thing that came from is that it served to highlight some of the amazing community initiatives that have been happening there. That have been happening for a while and someone doing amazing work right here in Halifax is Rodney Small. I’m not gonna go through people’s individual bios. Right. He’s got the coolest one because his bio is actually on YouTube. It’s a documentary. We’re going to put the link in the chat function. I’m going to turn things over to Rodney.


Rodney Small [00:07:52] Thank you, Paul. And welcome, everybody in, as we previously mentioned. We are here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We are situated on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. Definitely want to push that. Very important to do so. On that note, I would o the welcome everybody as we start to discuss some of the work that we have been doing in the community for the last six years. But I think it’s really important to point out that I am born and raised in the north end of Halifax, and my story does actually come full circle. So I encourage you all to tap on the link and definitely take in the documentary, because it will give you a little bit more insight of my upbringing, which is very, very important to this to this song and dance.


Rodney Small [00:08:57] Give me a second share screen here. What I want to talk about today is a development that is happening in the north end of Halifax on a very, very popular site. In fact, the site itself is known as St. Pat’s Alexandra. It is a popular school site, and I’m learning more and more about the site as I really indulge on the work that we’re doing and trying to really bring the city, the developers and the community all together to really work together towards one common goal. And that’s really to create a community benefits agreement that would really create equitable initiatives in the program to offset the gentrification that we see in the north end of Halifax. And I’d like to start by also I have another PDF here. I’m sharing an executive summary that was put together for the community benefit agreement to really advocate on behalf of creating something of that likes. Because one of the things that we’ve been hearing is, well, currently here in Halifax, it’s not a thing. So I know we have people all around the world and these types of agreements are a thing. But here in Halifax, it’s not a thing as of yet. So we have been doing a lot of work on the ground and in trying to make it a thing. So one of the things I want to point out is we hear so much about Africville really important that we definitely point out what has happened at Africville. But what I want to point out here at the very top, at the very top, you will notice that since 2006 to 2016, the black population of the north end dropped by half as over 700 black residents left the neighborhood where many had lived for generations. And the reason why I want to point this out is because many of us lived here based on the displacement that has taken place in not only Africville, but there was another community of black people that were in the Cogswell area, and that’s in the downtown core. If you’re familiar with Halifax, Nova Scotia College, which is closer to the Scotia Suare area in the downtown core. So there were many black families and not just black families, lower income families, many of which happen to be black, who were displaced originally from their homes there and pushed further up into the north and to Halifax, where they ended up from there then became this the world renowned story of Africville. So with that being said, I think it was really important to point out that since 2006 to 2016, right here in Halifax, Nova Scotia displacement is alive and well. So gentrification is, as we say, young kids would put it. The takeover is is definitely in effect. And we’ve seen it we’ve seen it in this time period that we’re pointing out right here. In fact, like I said to you earlier on. I’m born and raised in the community. I haven’t lived anywhere else in the only place I’ve really been for a long period of time would would be, quite frankly and sad to say it’s wonderful. And that’s not my my choice. I can promise to tell you that. And I encourage you to go back to the documentary to learn more about that. But we’re here to talk about displacement and how we can really address the gentrification that is taking place in the north end of Halifax today. So. we have been working with the developer to create and right here is the rendering that has been put forth over, say, after six years of working closely with with the community professionally to engage them in a meaningful way. One of the things we heard earlier on, just moments ago with Andy, he was talking about engaging in a meaningful way. We also heard Paul say some of the same things. So one of the things that we’ve learned how to do really well at one northing Community Economic Development Society. And I will say we mobilize the one a.k.a. the one jawing the last two years because. Because community leaders, quite frankly, and advocates were isolated from from these conversations that were taking place in the community, and it was important that we ensure that our youth, our youth knew and understood what was going on in our community and more importantly, that they were attached to these conversations, because at the end of the day, as we all know, they are our future. They are our future.


Rodney Small [00:14:49] So what we decided myself, along with some other lifelong residents, one who actually happens to be the counselor today, at the time, he was not the counselor. I think a lot of the work that we did really encouraged him to put his name forth, to become the counselor. And lo and behold, he won that seat. So and that’s Mr. Lindell Smith, along with another fine gentleman in the community by the name of Steven Nelson, who was working out of the community YMCA at the time was working at the library.

These are two pillar organizations in our community. When I say pillar organizations, these are organizations that many of the youth that look like we frequent on a regular basis as support systems and support systems, and they continue to be those those places 20 years later. But what we decided as a collective was to engage our community in a meaningful way. So we decided to start with the most vulnerable voices in our community. And we’ve been doing this work from the equitable lands, hence the reason why we needed to engage our community from the most vulnerable voice. And that just so happened to be African Nova Scotian youth. So what we did was we decided to hold our first engagement in our own space, and that was that the community why so many of us, the three of us who we would identify as. And I want to put this out there, because when we talk about meaningful engagements and going into communities and engaging people’s communities, we have to know who are the credible messengers. So what we realize is that we we happen to be those credible messengers. At the time I was coaching basketball, I was coaching for over 15 years and had some great relationships with the youth that I was coaching. Stephen Nelson was actually working at the community doing program development. So he had great relations with the youth and then Lyndell was doing program creation for youth at the library. So we all were at the time very credible messengers in our community who could hold these spaces in a very meaningful way. And when I say hold these spaces in a very meaningful way. There’s an art, there’s an art to how you actually host the conversation. In fact, there’s a power in how you even invite somebody into your conversation. And your invite should reflect the space that you are going to hold. So what we started to realize is that we had a special way and engage in our community and we wanted to really use this to create informed decisions and move and forth on really solutions regarding gentrification. We felt that, you know, our community was very welcoming. And one of those places that people felt safe to come in really are growth. So we wanted to, you know, make sure that the people that are coming, understood the history, understood the history, the rich history that was attached to the north end to Halifax. Many you may not know, but we have a very, very famous and I say famous person who has been highlighted all around the world. And this person actually comes from the North End of Halifax. She ran her business out of the North End of Halifax. And that’s the late, great Viola Davis. Some of you all may know her story. And if you don’t, she’s the Rosa Parks of Canada. In fact, her story happened before, Rosa. No disrespect to my sister Rosa whatsoever, but by Viola Davis happened before Rosa Parks. And we are proud to say that Viola is from the north end. And that ten dollar bill that highlights Viola also highlights our community. If you look close in the background, there’s a map of the North End. Well, what we wanted to do was make sure that people understood the long history of African Nova Scotians that resided in this community in rich dialog and vibrancy that we brought into the community to make it what it actually is today. And we thought it was really important to start this conversation with our youth. So what we decided to do after hosting our first conversation in our own space at the community, why was we wanted to start taking these conversations into different areas? So we reached out to the schools. We decided that we wanted to take these conversations into the schools because one of the things we understood was we’re not sure that our kids are learning about this rich history inside their textbooks.


Rodney Small [00:20:05] This document I have up shows the opportunity areas that were identified through our engagements. And then we’ll double back to the design to show you how the developers actually worked closely with what we heard in our engagements, took that information back and incorporated it into the rendering. This rendering is only a concept that we want to put that out there today. It’s only a concept and it’s something that we have publicly put forth and are currently trying to get Halifax Regional Municipality on board, along with really community and developers to to really make this happening in a very, very sustainable way to ensure longstanding equitable…And I say that with emphasis, equitable impact. So on that note, we started with the engagement with our young people. And you’ll see their identified grassroot one engages with valuable use at Oxford in Highland Park. These are the junior high schools in our community. And we went inside those schools because we wanted to empower our youth. We wanted to empower our youth so that they knew they knew that they’ve been here for a long time, in fact. Well, we identified at that current time is that we had some youth that were connected to this community for up to six generations. And I say that very, very clearly. Six, not for not five, that would be six generations deep. And from from from those conversations with our youth. And we did these in silos. We did these in silos. What we realized is that I don’t know about you all, but I say in some of the things that would be on my mind and in front of Mommy, especially when I was a little kid, because you just knew there was a space that, you know, you couldn’t say something. So one of the things we were very keen on was creating what we like to call a brave space. So we wanted to have these silo conversations because it helped us create a great space. Now we always hear both safe spaces, and I have nothing against a safe space. But what I’d like to point out is when we do create that safe space, that safe space does allow that. That shy voice to fall back to the corner. That could be very valuable, by the way, fall back to the corner and just let it be silent. But a brave space. On the other hand, it actually encourages that shy voice. To actually. Be heard. So we we really mastered the art of creating a brave space. And one of the things that that we did was make sure that in creating these spaces, we knew we were going to be in those spaces so that we wouldn’t make certain people feel uncomfortable to say what was in their heart or on their mind. So on that notion, what we did was we took the conversation from the schools back to the community, into the parent resource centers. We can’t talk to people’s children and not go back and talk to the parents and reflect on what we heard from the kids. Now, what was interesting was we wanted to hear from the parents how their upbringing was when they were kids, so that we could start to identify if there was any type of change in that amount of time.


Rodney Small [00:23:59] Well, neither here nor there. I won’t tell you what the conclusion was, but I’m sure you all can get to get to that pretty clearly. So after speaking to the parents, we took the conversations out a little further and we decided that we wanted to speak to homeowners. Many of the homeowners in the community were well aware were the new residents, but there were lots of homeowners in our community that lived there for generations. So we really wanted to start connecting some of the new homeowners with some of the ones that lived there for generations because this was going to help us build those connections. Well, ultimately telling a story based on experience so people could speak to their experience and what the North Endwas like 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. So from there, we had our last conversations and that was with with our business community business or nonprofit community. And then what happened was the conversation grew into what was known as the African Nova Scotia Youth Employment Lab. This was a conversation that all timidly and when I say a conversation that these engagements which ultimately grew to this. African Nova Scotia youth unemployment lab, this lab was literally created to answer the unemployment gap for African Nova Scotians between the ages of 18 and 35 compared to all other. Nova Scotia is between the ages of 18 and 35. It was literally funded through our poverty reduction strategy and was a way to really encourage dialog and innovation around closing this gap so long. Behold, we use these two opportunities and as you see here, we had many opportunity areas from those conversations which helped us get to the rendering that that I will show you in moments and take the next two, three minutes to discuss before turning it over for any questions, because I know our time is literally turning now.


Rodney Small [00:26:16] But what you will notice here on the first page is that some of the things that we’re incorporated, not some of the things, literally all the things that were incorporated based on what we would have heard from those engagements. And I will say those engagements that were done in a meaningful way, very genuine and sincere grassroots level with credible messengers. Very, very, what I will say is deep knowledge on the community, so very, very deep essence on the art of hosting, which is really important. And what you notice here is that we got a lot incorporated into the rendering.

Based on what we heard. And you’ll notice that at the front here where you see me point there’s a entrepreneurship center. So what we heard in the community is that community needs entrepreneurship center to encourage entrepreneurship. Well, we see it here. We look to have our own incubator. Down a little further, you’ll hear in our community, arts and music is a huge part of our culture. One of the things that we hear is we need a place to innovate and create. So similar to that, the startup space where we will innovate and create.


Rodney Small [00:27:43] We want to do this in the art space. One of our most famous architects in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We have a very famous library, new built. Not even 10 years old. Almost looks similar to what we see here. We thought this would be a great way to encourage tourism to really come up into the community, along with the longevity and the historic story of all of the community, but also our connection to the late great Viola Desmond down here. A little further, you’ll notice it says Cafe. What’s really important here is that not so the notion of a cafe itself, but retail space. So what I oh, what what I was saying earlier is that a community is being gentrified.


Rodney Small [00:28:36] One of the things that we do not see in the north and to Halifax, even though we have a very, very high African Nova Scotian population, is African Nova


Scotia businesses or even Black business, per say. So we have very few Black businesses in our community. So the population at the business district does not currently represent the population that it serves. But we’re hoping that one day we’ll get back to that space. And there’s lots of cool work that’s happening to help us get there. Well, these are some of the things which ultimately will also support those those cool initiatives. Last but not least, to kind of bring it full circle in the rendering does go or, you know, pretty and pretty details, but we are in pretty debt pretty much. It goes in great depth. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll focus mainly on the first page for now, but just bring it all full circle. One of the things that we heard throughout our engagements is in a lot of people never heard of of this terminology as of yet. But what we’re talking about is creating a loving, safe and beautiful community. And when we look at creating a loving, safe and beautiful community, you should be able to bike. You should be able to walk and you should be able to drive together. So this is one of the things that we wanted to represent.

And what you’ll see here is known as a Woolnorth (sp?) , where you can actually do all these sayings in a safe manner.


Rodney Small [00:30:18] Thank you all for taking the time to listen to me today. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to throw the mountain to the comment section. I noticed the chat is popping here. I really wasn’t focused on the chat. I was really delivering the presentations. So I appreciate a lot of the information that was being shared here. The one definitely is doing a lot of different initiatives, really. The full name is the one Northing Community Economic Development Society. We were incubated through common good solutions. So I myself am a Common Good Solutions employee who is currently on secondment to the nonprofit organization, which is known as The One. So on that note, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to throw them my way. I will say again, the vision is the name. So we believe in a community where if the tide is rising, then all the ships in the ocean will rise together and not just a select few. So that’s a little bit about the work that we have been doing in the community. We appreciate each and every one of you and your attention today. And I wanted to thank you for your time.


Paul McKinnon [00:31:50] Thanks very much, Rodney. Great job. Keep the questions coming if we don’t have time to answer them. We can connect, Rodney. We’ll get. We’ll continue the conversation. This is really the start of that. We’re going to move on to our second speaker. So going back to last February, admittedly, I had never heard of Jay Pitter, but by April, she was everywhere. She was online at virtual webinars, speaker forums as we sat around the organizing team for the Art of City Building. We said, we’ve got to get Jay Pitter for this conference. Who knows, Jay, which one of us knows Jay? And we formed a connection with Jay through the Canadian Urban Institute who are helping us present this Congress today. And so we landed here. We’re so excited. I think partly because by her own admission, Jay loves Nova Scotia. And why wouldn’t she? So we couldn’t physically bring her here this time. But but, Jay, we still want you to come out when it’s safe to do so. So please buckle your seat belts and join me in welcoming from Toronto, Jay Pitter.


Jay Pitter [00:32:54] Good afternoon, everyone. It’s really an honor to be here. And it is an honor to always follow a local place maker and a local expert. So thank you so much, Rodney, for your presentation. I had the opportunity to visit Africville approximately two decades ago as a part of the Governor-General leadership delegation. It was a wonderful opportunity for me as an emerging leader at that time. And I still recall standing at the Africville Monument in the pouring rain and hearing that story for the first time in a really in- depth way, told by elders and community members with direct connections to the community. And later on, those folks hosted us and it was really clear by the hospitality and the visceral pride of place. And it really magnified what was lost. And it also magnified the indomitable spirit of the community. And, you know, Rodney mentioned a safe and loving community. And that is exactly how I experienced folks from Halifax and also the direct descendants of individuals who lived in Africville. So building on Rodney’s wise words, I’d like to just take a moment to zoom out a little bit wider, to look at spatializing anti-Black racism across Canada. One of the things that I think about when I think about anti-Black and overall urban inequity across the country, I think about my cultural community, and I often say that we are stolen people living on stolen lands. And so that creates a very particular complication. And for black people enslaved by the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the auction block was actually our first encounter with public space. I want you to think about that for a moment. So the auction block was our first encounter with public space where we were introduced in a critical mass. And of course, we are not a singular community and we have many different histories and pathways to Canada. And we also know that some black folks are also part Indigenous. So they have very long standing roots here as well. But at that particular moment in history really has shaped the ways in which black people, you know, are seen and received in public. And the auction block induced the terror far greater than the cowardly crack of the whip as it marked separation from loved ones and the beginning of a long walk into an unknown suffering. And so much of this suffering for black people in this country has indeed been place-based tethered to land use. But again, I mentioned that I wanted to even fan out a little bit wider and to acknowledge that numerous equity seeking groups have been historically harmed by urban planning and other land use professions. And we it goes all the way back. And I’ve talked about this before, so I’m going to move through these points quite quickly. It goes all the way back to colonization. So what we know is that surveying land and defining uses and defining classes of people who get access to particular types of land close to good resources and connect connectivity and pathways that started centuries ago and is embedded in surveying and the colonial project itself moving forward, we have to think about the ways in which car-centric infrastructure has been weaponized against not only Black people. So we know that the African story is a story that is linked to car centric infrastructure being weaponized against the Black community. But we know that it’s also weaponized against low income communities and people who are unable to show up for themselves in powerful ways, in public consultation processes, because there aren’t those meaningful pathways or those proper messengers that Rodney spoke about today. We live with a legacy of especially high fatalities and low income racialized communities right across Canada. We also know that there is a social aspect of street safety, which we never talk about, things like gender based harassment, unhoused people being targeted, individuals with mental health issues experiencing a crisis in public public transit harassment. And we know that citizen and police profiling are prevalent right across the country. Specifically in Halifax, Montreal and Toronto, research and reports have shown that Black communities and other racialized communities are highly targeted. Another thing that we don’t talk about a lot when we are talking about our experiences in the public realm is the way that a lot of invisible policies and laws shape our experiences. One of the most powerful and potent policies and laws is the anti-vagrancy law, which gives police power in appropriate power to stop people on suspicion. This law actually came from Britain and it was originally used to keep people, wait for it, in their place. That is what the law was used for to maintain the British social hierarchy apply throughout the Americas.

What we see is that people who are seen as being poor are disabled and unhoused performing in public, sleeping in public. Such a wide array of individuals and behaviors have been on the receiving end of the vagrancy law being misapplied to overpoliced people in the public realm. We also know that we have a number of racist housing ordinances. And so while in Canada, we don’t talk about redlining. It’s very important to know that racist ordinances which disallowed People of Color and Jewish people, by moving in particular neighborhoods right across Canadian cities, have actually resulted in a contemporary modern day class and racial segregation. The list is extensive, but I share these ideas with you just to lay some good ground for some of our conversation this afternoon, especially as we are speaking in a national context. One of the things that often comes up when we talk about these types of histories within urbanism and placemaking there is a tendency to want to empower people. I understand the sentiment of this, but I strongly disagree with this approach. So it is so critical that we stop saying empowering people because empowering someone suggests that you are omnipotent. And it also centers you in a particular kind of way. It takes away from the reality that every single human being and every single historically marginalized group or not possess a sort of power. Everyone is inherently powerful. So we don’t want to empower people as peacemakers and urbanists. What we want to do is create the space to share resources, information and our design insights and capacity so that people can activate their own power and co create a vision for their communities. So, you know, during this pandemic, I have been a part of a number of talks. Paul mentioned that he didn’t know who I was. I’ve been doing this work silently for 20 years. My background is rooted in urban design and social justice. And so long before the pandemic, I’ve been leading this conversation actually across North America. And one of the things that I have found in doing this work is that there are sometimes moments which call for ethical rule breaking. So if we are to really respond to communities, sometimes we have to break the rules, because the truth is that bylaws and laws really sometimes contravene placemaking and impinge on people’s human rights and their right to beauty, dignified housing amenities, safe streets and so on. During the pandemic, I was asked to lead a design intervention. I’m looking at the air quality and heat in low income communities, the kind of communities that I grew up in. I started this project and what I realized when I entered these communities, which I have inherited, terrible design, lack of amenities, lack of space, lack of green space, is that you people in individual units were suffering so much. And we simply didn’t have the time or the resources to address the depth and the breadth of the issues. And so what I very quickly did was recalibrate and honed in on community spaces and community hubs. So, again, to Rodney’s point, in our communities, community hubs and social service places, spaces are so critically important. And so one of the spaces that we focus on are dayscare. I’d like you to just take a look at some of these images. So if you look at the image to your top far left with all those mounds of toys, that is actually a closet sized room where racialized female daycare workers were expected to take their break. It doubles as a storage room. So it has more toys than ever. And because COVID guidelines for daycares have changed and so people have had to store many of the toys to be compliant with the safety rules. And this room also doubles as a janitorial storeroom. Now, I just want you to think about that for a moment. Racialized women who take care of their children.

Right. I want you to look at that pile of toys in that room. They are expected to take a break in a room with mops and buckets and free toys that could fall on top of them. There was only an old couch blocking a very small vent in that room. Very quickly, as we began to do the audit, I worked with a couple of architects who were amazing on the project as well.

They started doing a spatial audit and I worked with one of the architects talking to the daycare workers themselves, in place-based urbanism, we call them users. I never do. They are always my number one clients and they are always collaborators. That’s how I consider people who use the spaces, not users or user groups. And so we started asking questions. And one of the things that I was struck by was that when I started asking questions about air quality and the heat and what we learned was that the children in the daycare who are all under four years old were sleeping longer when they were awake.

They were lethargic and also engaged in more conflict due to the poor air quality and the heat in this daycare. Those kinds of outcomes are directly aligned with the research showing the adverse health impacts of heat and air quality issues in sick buildings. As a mother, as a place maker, I was so incredibly alarmed hearing this sort of thing. And so, you know, I had a real decision to make because that wasn’t part of the funding that was promised to me wasn’t coming. It was slow. And so I spent about 10 days staying up at night figuring out what my next move needed to be. You know, as I was talking to the workers, they were telling me that I would have to, you know, go through the building management, the same building management who, by the way, kicked them out of their office space, moving them into the storage closet with janitorial equipments. On around day eight. I literally could not sleep anymore. I was very clear about the fact that the challenges that had been raised and had been long standing, but laid bare by the pandemic and that I couldn’t really, you know, address everything. But I knew that I could address something. And so I decided to break the rules. And so instead of waiting on funding or waiting for funders to get back to me or talking to people, you know, the building management, waiting for them to answer the many emails I sent that went unanswered, I decided that as a practice we would move forward and address the space so that children and the workers can have a dignified space. And so this is some of the work that we did.

So if you look at the top left hand side, this property is located close to a woodland area. It was very important for me to bring the beauty of the outside and the green space into the daycare space. I thought that would be very stimulating for the children. And one of the things that I noted is that when I go to daycare is a middle class neighborhood. They look different than the daycare that I was standing in. So I wanted this day here to be as bright, as beautiful, as stimulating for those children, because every child in this country deserves a fair start in life. And so we did this. The bottom, the bottom, your bottom. Right. That is the room that had the stack of toys. We built cabinets, gave them a new couch, opened up the vents. One of the other things that we did that was so seemingly small but made a tremendous difference was swapping out their AC unit. So one of the architects on the team, Paul Kulig, very quickly noted that the units they were using in this daycare were intended for a small living room with four bodies. So imagine that a daycare with many bodies and many children using a unit that was intended for a home living room with only four bodies. And so this for me, was the most precious moments of that project. You know, this is Rasha and she is the manager in this daycare and she doesn’t have an office. You come through the entrance and this is her, like, little Nook area. And during the day, the outside door has to be closed and the door to the daycare has to be closed. There is zero ventilation in this room and no windows. It was very important to me to spend time making Rasha’s office, a dignified space. And when she came to the daycare the night we were finishing off with her family and just looking at her daughter and how proud her daughter was to see her mom in this dignified workspace. You know, when we think about placemaking and placemakers , we often forget those placemake’s on the front lines doing essential, dangerous work, you know, occupying spaces that are not safe, not dignified and not beautiful. It was just so important to me to be able to, extend the space for her.

And this would not have been possible without the 11 women who at the last moment showed up and lent extra hands to making sure that this space would be prepared and ready for the children within just three days. Slide, please. So just very quickly, share with you the lessons that I’ve learned recently and the lessons that guide my practice. Don’t ask for permission. Do the right thing now. One of the reasons I think that some folks haven’t heard of me is because I haven’t made it in mainstream urbanism. I’m a rule breaker. I think that if we want to build communities that are equitable, you have to break the rules.

You have to be prepared to work from the margins, work twice as hard and maybe get praised later on in your career, maybe not at the front end, because everyone will follow you right away. And that’s totally OK. Also, forget about your title or formal processes. Get your hands dirty. When we were cleaning that daycare, I am telling you that I mopped myself and one of my friends mopped mouse feces off that floor more than six different times because of how neglected the building is. I when I say get your hands dirty, I really mean it. Get your hands dirty. Also, communities always move faster than bureaucracies. My friends showed up within 48 hours. I ended up receiving funding to cover the work that we did recently, and I’m very grateful for that funding. But if I didn’t go out ahead, if my friends and those women didn’t join me, this work would not have been completed right now. Also, when communities are centered, small design interventions can make a huge difference. And my final lesson placemaking is personal. What I didn’t tell you is that this daycare is located on the ground floor of the public housing building where I grew up. My work is personal. I am unapologetic about that. Whether I am working in a building where I grew up or working in a low income community in one of the 20 cities where I have the privilege of working across North America, I always take on the work as though those women are my mothers and my aunties. I take it on is that those children are my own children. I’m a mother. When I go into low income communities, I think of myself and my friends. I think about the ways that I almost didn’t make it. I think about kids who deserve a fighting chance. Kids who haven’t needed who aren’t making it because we’re not doing what we need to do as peacemakers and urbanists. Thanks for listening.


Paul McKinnon [00:54:03] Great. Thank you, Jay. At the end of all these conferences, we put together a ecap video. We’re always looking for those little soundbites to treat people. So stop empowering people. I almost guarantee is going to be on there somewhere. It was about a year ago that I went to my last in-person conference, which is the International Downtown Association conference. Last year was in Baltimore and they introduced a young man named Albus Brooks from Denver. He was he was a football player. He was a city councilor. He was a developer. He was an activist for inclusion and diversity. I believe he was a preacher. And so now he’s going to take us to church. So please welcome from Denver, Mr. Albus Brooks.


Albus Brooks [00:54:52] Thank you, Paul. Thank you Jay, for your incredible words. This was really interesting to see how globally, as we look around cities and reimagining cities, that we’re starting to use the same language about around this. This is really exciting. So I’m gonna share my screen real quick and we’ll get going. So like what say my name is Albus Brooks, I am now the vice president of Millander White. It is a development and construction company running in Colorado, in Southern California. And my perspective is going to come from the seat of the developer to come from the seat of I was the president of Denver City Council and coming from a seat of a community organizer, which I still call myself. So I’m I’m all of the three. But I think it’s important for us to see transformation that we have folks in private development get it and who understand kind of what we’re going through right here. You’ll see it. I’m titling this rebuilding the American city. This is the context is is where I come from. But, you know, this can be easily transmittable. The context changes, but the principles do not. Our cities and what you’ll see in my belief is was built on a white supremacist racist foundation. And to to build an inclusive city, we need to rebuild all of our cities. Of course, you know, I used to say that statement before the pandemic, before, you know, all of the rioting and police brutality that has the George Floyd incidents. And folks would look at me crazy. But now I think people understand that our cities are broken and they’re broken because they’re built on a racist context. I asked a lot of the folks who are looking at the Black Lives Matter movement and everything that has gone on and not judge it, but seek to understand before being understood. Martin Luther King said riot is the language of the unheard and the oppressed. And I think loud and clear, we are hearing what the community is saying. But why? Why do they feel like they are oppressed? Why do we feel like we are unheard of? And I’m just gonna give you one policy. I can talk about 400 years and our global history of slavery and all of these issues. But I want to talk about once one policy that impacted our city and cause a cataclysmic effect globally, then I think we’re seeing now. Now, one of the things that war were to that we look at and praise our veterans in America who went over to fight in World War Two. We saw that the the Congress at the time passed the G.I. Bill, and it was something that everyone supported. It was something that everyone believed in, how ever what we see is that that support and that belief and those benefits did not go to African- American soldiers. One point two million African-American soldiers. My grandfather fought in World War Two. As a matter of fact, he’s Black. At first, they were told to build latrines for white soldiers. And so he was a part of that. And he but he was a part of the platoon that begin to fight for the first time. And he deserved those benefits. He deserved to come back home and be able to find new housing, new opportunities in communities. But he didn’t.


Albus Brooks [00:59:09] He did not have those opportunities that white soldiers did. And what we see in that moment when soldiers came back in the baby boom started and that subsidized suburbanization started in America because of these benefits. Black soldiers were relegated to urban ghettos. Red line communities and rural places. And as you see here on my chart that I put together, we see in America that that gap there was already a gap from slavery and the racism and the Jim Crow south and all of these issues. But here begins the wealth gap that begin to tear our cities apart. The G.I. Bill, the white flight, the subsidized sprawl in white America, the political representation, intergenerational wealth sentences lindsy access to higher education. comes out to compounding interest and gain. And in the black community, we see the red lining, the eminent domain, the condemnation laws, the urban renewal, the race riots, Jim Crow laws, voter disenfranchisement, mass incarceration, health disparities. And the exclusion of what I talked about, the G.I. Bill, the wage gap compounding loss. And these are the issues that we begin seeing in our community. And it started with this G.I. Bill.


Albus Brooks [01:00:38] Now, everybody on this call and people who want to be a part of cities and city building and have a vision, they they go with the best intentions. But as Jay talked about, even our best intentions seek to empower and have racist roots. So what does it really mean to be an ally and be an accomplice and be a city rebuilder. And I point out to you that we almost always take sides of neutrality. That helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormented, never the tormented. I think it’s important that we and folks who are allies and accomplices take a side and pick a side and figure out what it takes. And that’s what you’re hearing today at this conference that you’re hearing from these folks. I mean, in the past, I will make the statement that I feel like folks who’ve been neutral and silent do more damage than white nationalists. Because the silent individuals are the majority and they are allowing systemic racism to build and build in their own city. And they’re a part of in ways that they don’t even know. So I don’t want to just talk about these opportunities without giving you education material to study for yourself and figure out what this means in your own context. Well, my favorite books, and I think if you are in anything around city building and real estate and things like that, you need to read this book, Color of Law by Richard Rothstein and it talks about how we build segregation throughout our cities, federally, through federal laws. The Federal Housing Act dollars. All of these, it was intentional. And it talks about the detail. I read this book like two, three times. Now I’m picking it up again because I think it’s so important to really dismantle it. I think Jay talked about this to really dismantle what has been created. We have to intentionally break up the system because the system is actually used. And this is a person who’s been a part of the system for, you know, 10 years as the president of Denver City Council, worked nationally on housing policy, work in my state on it. The system is used to really oppress the least of these. We’ve got to break that up to really do something different. So. To really begin to heal, we’ve got to educate ourselves and learn. I want to touch on this because I think it is critical. We are living in segregated cities. If you don’t if you don’t think that the laws 50 years ago are not there. I think you’re wrong. You do not understand what is going on. So Jay talked about anti-Black racism that is still carried on all over the globe today. But how that happens in a city is very interesting is Blacks and others are relegated to one section of the city. We call that redlining in the United States. Spatial mismatch theory is making sure that the resources needed to survive and thrive in a community are not placed within your distance, within your reach. And so in these in that theory, these these resources and opportunities are placed around and not near. And so you can look at sections of the city. You can look at this in the city of Denver. We call it the inverted L and the inverter. L have our highest, highest obesity rates high. You know, our graduation rates, this where the most people of color live. And this has been a strategy from the very beginning. And those are things we have to to to break down. And obviously, the culture of poverty theory, which now that you’ve set up this anti- Black racism and this social miss-match theory. Now you are believing you are getting the community to believe this is how poverty is. Why are these people like that? Why can’t they just get it job? Why can’t they just come together? But you have designed it from the beginning. It’s it’s a crime. So as was mentioned before, Paul talked about me being a minister. I am a recovering minister of the gospel. And I think one important word to me is shalom. It’s a Hebrew word. And a lot of people see it as peace, but it’s more than that. It’s about restoration and repair. And that’s what I believe we have to be as as as city rebuilds before we do anything, we have to see our work as a holy work. We have to see our work as divine that we are repairing a community that has been destroyed and has been turned over and has been racialized. And it was never intended to be like that in the first place. So what does it mean to repair? To restore? And that’s the posture we need to take now.

What’s the action that we need to do in my city of Denver? One of the things that I proposed and we rewrote the entire city plan, development plan, and we started with an equity lens and we we want the things we put together.


Albus Brooks [01:06:46] Our city is to start looking for our city planners, no longer focusing on Arnaud’s and our Arnaud’s, that our registered neighborhood organizations. And they usually go out to them, get the information out. And that’s how it is. No, you are going to start making sure you’re going to the churches. You are going to start making sure you go into the rec leagues. You are going to start making sure you talk to gang members in the community. You will talk to everyone in the community to get an understanding of that community. And we’ve done that what we’ve done in our in our in our neighborhood and city plans that just focus on those with wealth and means and the ability to speak. t the folks who are on the margins, who we set up to be on the margins. And so that’s the new plan that we had. We had a a redesign, not just focusing on folks who are at the city who are planners, but taking young people. How do you imagine and what would you love to see in your community? And so we put them to the table and then rebuilding. And this is the part where I’m in the construction and development industry. What does economic empowerment look like when most folks think about economic empowerment? They think about entry level jobs. When I think about it, I think about black and brown wealth, how to be wealth. So much wealth has been taken from this community just because of our laws. How do we build wealth in a community? So I know that this is a this is Nova Scotia and a lot of Canadian folks and I even saw some folks from London was up. I hope you know who this is. This is Nipsey Hussle. He was actually assassinated in Los Angeles. He’s a rapper. And and I think you heard Rodney talk about gentrification. Nipsy was one of the first leaders to really say. What we’ve used this word is such a horrible word, because whites have come into our community and pushed us out. What if we begin to gentrify our own community? And in this picture right here, you see Nipsy cutting the ribbon on a building that he bought. And why it’s so significant is that Nipsy Hustle 20 years earlier was selling drugs in this building, and he got a vision for his life on the streets at this building and said, I want to reclaim my community. He didn’t go move somewhere else. He said, my own community. I’m about to buy back the block. And this is significant. This is how do we look at individuals in our community and start to begin to think of, OK, how do I not empower. Right. But how do I share power with the individuals in my community on an ownership, on incubator space, things like that. We’ll talk about that in just a second here. So something that, you know, we champion here in the city and then a couple others that I’m starting to see. A lot of excitement around it, but it’s putting affordable housing for displaced neighbors first. What we saw was we built a ton of affordable housing. The city of Denver and new millennials were moving into the city instead of single moms and folks from the community who had been displaced. And so we worked with HUD or some other organizations as well to start identifying folks who had been displaced in this neighborhood. This particular development just has been approved. It’s called a Claire Brown comments. Claire Brown was an African slave who got out of slavery, built a business up and became a millionaire in the city in Colorado. And this. And she gave away all of her money as well. And this development is a picture of her life, which is giving back to the community and making sure it’s it’s 100 percent affordable, 30 percent to 80 percent. Am I? And it is that the the issue with this land is that it was a slum lord owned it. And we as a city took it from the slum lord, renamed it as Claire Brown Commons. And now the community will have a place to go. One things that we’re working on in the city of Denver right now to create an entrepreneurial center for people of color, specifically for people of color, because of what was done. Justice is. Is delivering, right? Right.

Repairing, restoring what was taken. Right. And we believe that creating an octopus, a newer center of color specifically for folks. Technical support, capital support from private sector banks and from the city. Grants from our foundation community to start to focus on the community of color and how to build their business businesses up in some incubator space as well. I just want to touch on this as I’m winding down here. The five points when I came into office in 2010 was the top 10 gentrify communities in the United States. When I came in there, several black folks who were upset in the last 10 years, folks moved out five points and we said, what could we do?


Albus Brooks [01:12:26] And so this is when I just started my Black Wealth Initiative campaign and all of the individuals from this community, we wanted to make sure that they had a hand in rebuilding this community. And so to the gentleman up there in the in the maroon jacket, many of you may not know him, but he is very famous. That’s Robert Smith. He’s the wealthiest individual black person in the United States. Robert Smith was speaking at Morehouse University when he talked about repaying all of their loans when he was speaking there. That’s probably how you know. Well, he is a Denver native. And I approached him several years years ago about making an investment into black businesses, black entrepreneurship, black architects, black developers to reclaim the renaissance of five points. And just to let you know, five points in the 30s, 40s and 50s was a red line community in Denver where the most famous was called the Harlem of the West. It was the most famous jazz player, Charlie Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, all at Lena Horne. All of these incredible jazz artists. And after the crack epidemic in the 80s and 90s, it was largely vacant and then begin to be gentrified. But today it is over 50 percent black owned. And we’re excited about the opportunities that are that is happening there.

Let me leave you with this quote as we think about the the city of the future and the future of cities, it isn’t one with flying cars and towers that reach to the heavens. It’s about the regenerative ecosystems, the inclusive economies, the just societies where equity and social mobility go hand in hand. Do not talk anymore to me about how economically viable your city is. Show me that there is social mobility for every disenfranchized piece of your community. And then you’ll show me an economically prosperous city. Thank you. Amen.


Paul McKinnon [01:14:49] I paused there so everyone can say, Amen. Thank you, Albus. Great talk and thank you for letting us do that journey and for leaving us with a lot of hope at the end. So we’re moving right along to our next speaker, who is Uytae Lee. Very happy to introduce you to a proud Dalhousie graduate like myself. Those of us that are involved in planning issues here in Halifax will know you today primarily for the videos that he first did with Planta Facts, which really was the great short, informative, extremely accessible videos bringing planning issues to the general public in a way that they could understand and engage with. Unfortunate we’ve lost you take to the West Coast where he’s doing continue to do great things. He’s really nailed a unique style. I know people want to check out some of his videos or maybe we’ll post some links in the chat function as well. His most recent One of the Future of Transit was both terrifying and comforting somehow at the same time. So coming to us today from Vancouver. Mr. Uytae Lee.


Uytae Lee [01:15:48] Hello. Hello. yes, I am on the West Coast right now. But man, I miss Halifax so dearly sometimes. Shout out to Dalhousie Planning Class 2015 2016. Shout out to Freeman’s live in New York with garlic fingers and shout out to Planet. That’s, of course, the kind of thing that started it all. It is a huge honor for me to be a part of this conference to follow like great speakers such as Rodney, such as Jay and Albus. It’s a conference I’ve been to, gosh, I think every year since it started the last four years. And now it just I was the videographer or behind the scenes back then, but now it’s like I’m presenting. So, you know, I’m incredibly nervous about it. But, you know, we’re gonna we’re gonna go for. it I make videos about urban planning issues, and that’s sort of the role I do. But today I, I kind of want to actually just share a story. It’s one I just finished writing. I’m hoping to make a video about it. And when T.J. and Kourosh invited me to the conference and mentioned the topic of inclusion, I just felt like this story kind of had something to offer for our conversation today and maybe something more than I could just contribute by myself. So it’s a story about Vancouver’s missing middle. So let me give you some backdrop. This is a photo, Vancouver. Maybe it’s a photo you recognize. This is what goes on. The marketing goes on the postcards at urban planning conferences worldwide, I’m sure. But this picture is really just half the story. Or to be accurate. It’s like 20 percent of the story. If you zoom out, what do you see? What do you get? Lots and lots of houses. Single family, residential neighborhoods, in fact. Eighty one percent of Vancouver’s residential blend is comprised of single family homes or duplexes. This is the stuff that is that, you know, it’s some of the most expensive real estate in Canada. And you see sort of this pattern, you know. Wait.

Does that mean I’m missing on my site? We also have, like agricultural reserve land, which is mostly used for golf courses. But that’s a story for another time, because the point I’m trying to make is across Metro Vancouver, you see this pattern of development. You have houses and you have apartments and very, very little in between. To me, this pattern kind of repeats itself a lot through Metro Vancouver up the most sort of payments. Example for me is this neighborhood in Burnaby, just the next city over called Brentwood Town Center. That’s Brentwood Town Center. It is comprised of several high rises, including the second and fourth tallest buildings in British Columbia. And right next to it, we have single family houses. So this phenomenon. This is what it looks like on the ground, which is pretty crazy, like I said. Right. You got there. You’ve got like super size or happy meal. Go big or go home literally. And so, again, like I was saying, this phenomenon, this is called the missing middle. And so what’s missing? Well, other types of housing like townhouses, your walk up, apartments, duplexes. You know, the the thing that one of my favorite examples and these neighborhoods, you know, these buildings sort of form some of the most desirable neighborhoods across North America. You think of the townhouses, the painted ladies, Franscisco walk up apartments in New York and Brooklyn, as well as Halifax’s very, very own sort of heritage buildings. A lot of those heritage buildings are missing middle buildings. They offer a lot of promise to people concerned about the housing affordability crisis because they can get quite a bit more density into neighborhoods without necessarily changing the scale of them too much. But in Vancouver, we really just don’t build a whole lot of them in 2018. Vancouver built fourteen hundred detached houses, forty four hundred apartment units and fifty six row houses. So that was where I wanted to, you know, really investigate it for this story. Why is the missing miss missing middle missing?

Now we’re at an urban planning conference. I’m sure the answer is not surprising to any of you. The missing middle is missing because it’s illegal. Yes, a setback and height restrictions really limit the size of building you can build on your property. Parking minimums often force buildings like townhouses to build expensive concrete park cades underneath them, which really just makes the development financially not make sense.

And of course, we have the daunting bylaw. This is the zoning map for Vancouver with its various various different colors showing what you can build where. But this is another way to interpret it. The properties in yellow are the properties where you can only build a single family house or a duplex. It’s recently been updated to allow secondary units and laneway houses. But that’s beside the point because everything else, the stuff in blue, that’s where you can build everything else initially. So to me, this is where the story really began to get interesting. You know, what are the conditions that created the need for these kind of rules? Why did we create these rules in the first place? And my approach for that was to go back in time to when this file thought to when these rules were written. That year was 1927, but it was written by this guy called Harlan Bartholomew, and I’m sure. Thanks.

Maybe you guys know the planet of Thomas Adams, who is like a world famous urban planner, that, you know, that a lot of people think for North American cities. Harlan Bartholomew, I like describe s are like a knockoff version of that. He did a lot of sort of master plans across North America. I’m actually ending up really segregating a lot of cities. And he was sorry, this is guy my attempt at a meeting as well. So I’ll just quickly move on. So Harlan Bartholomew was hired by the city of Vancouver in 1927 to write an overall plan and vision for the city and come up with a zoning bylaw. And when you look at some of the the the text in the original plan, you can see that his key direction given to him by council at the time was to prevent the intrusion of apartments, houses and single or to family residential neighborhoods. So that’s interesting. What did we have against the apartment house back then? Why did we want to prevent the intrusion of them? Well, to give you some context, downtown areas, we’re going through a bit of a rough time at the turn of the 19th century. They were often associate with problems. Industrial cities like New York and London had tenement buildings where diseases like cholera were pretty frequently a concern. You also had several really controversial, huge, massive fires that took place in various cities across North America. Vancouver actually had a huge one that pretty much razed the whole city just a few months after it was incorporated. So so, you know, these downtown apartments were associated with a lot of issues and problems that a lot of people were worried about during that time. And so for those who could afford, it’s a single family neighborhood. That single family house on the outskirts of the city was really the refuge, the escape. And, you know, it offered things that people really prioritized at the time, things like air circulation and sun exposure. If you look at the tents, people really thought these two things were critical for fighting diseases like typhoid and call her for some reason. But, of course, like have you noticed, houses face wide apart, you know, kind of help mitigate fire risks as well. Right now, also happening at the same time where transportation innovation is like the street car and the automobile would really help make it feasible for a lot of people to just live outside the city and commute in for work just during the day and then go back to their homes in the suburbs, kind of escape from the city in the evening. Now, those are like some pretty understandable concerns for me. But there were also some more really suspect attitudes at the time. Things that I really don’t think deserve our sympathy today. Just seems like attitudes towards downtown areas. You know, we’re also incredibly, how can I say, like classist and definitely racist. So this is a political cartoon from 1987 from Vancouver, Saturday Sunset. And it’s a cartoon that pretty much sums it all up for me. Let’s zoom in. So at the front, the top panel says the typical home of Vancouver is white working men. The panel right beneath that, a warrant on Carroll Street invested by two thousand Chinese. And just like in the left bottom left corner, you’ve got a Chinese dude smoking an opium pipe. So great. Yeah. So, like I said, really like a mixture of, you know, some understandable public health concerns, but also some really quite messed up ideas about, you know, moral superiority and racial superiority. Kind of informed this zoning bylaw. And I think architectural historian Anthony Sutcliff really explains this well. And it’s all right. This is also when height, height restrictions and parking regulations also came into effect anyway. Here’s the Anthony said, quote, Zoning originated not only to promote safer, healthier cities, but also to keep the poor in their place. So now I’m going to push us a little bit more forwards throughout time, which, you know, saw other innovations come through, like running water, mazing, fire extinguisher, smoke detectors. Right. Upgraded, you know, building codes and whatnot. So, you know, through throughout time or as time went on, we really began to resolve many issues with apartments, some of the sort of practical concerns we had. So we’re definitely not concerned about cholera or fires anymore. But at the same time, the zoning bylaws haven’t really changed much. Right. This zoning map of Vancouver is essentially the same zoning map from nineteen twenty seven. The single family residential area, as you see on the map and white. They haven’t changed in 93 years. So that’s part one of it. But also a hostility to densification has also remained building anything, any kind of density in some of these single family zones. In Vancouver is an incredibly controversial move. And again, it’s a very messy mix of concerns. And I’ve compiled just like sort of a collage of some of the more common concerns that frequently come up. You know, privacy of people’s backyards is a big concern that comes up on neighborhood character, of course, heritage. I know something that comes up a lot in Halifax. There’s noise, concerns, parking.

Everyone worries about having enough parking available densification is a threat to that in some ways. A very kind of unique to Vancouver, one I might say is sunlight, because a lot of Vancouver single family houses also have like big they do like some urban gardening in the backyard. And so, you know, those Fasal plants, they love Sun having anything to kind of cover that up with shadows, you know that, you know, God forbid. And then, of course, traffic congestion. But again, like the past, I think some of the rhetoric is also incredibly suspect. It’s not so innocent. And I’ll give you a kind of like a timeline of some of this commentary throughout Vancouver history in 1956, as the city was banning secondary suites across the board in Vancouver, single family housing zones. The key reasoning behind it was a fear that that’s those secondary suites would turn these houses into boarding houses, which could turn those areas into slums in the 1980s. Vancouver experienced a wave of immigration from Hong Kong. Those people were fleeing their homeland as it was being returned to China. So as these immigrants came to Vancouver and other parts of Canada, they brought their extended families. And because of that, they ended up building bigger houses in their end of the big building, bigger houses. So you could have, you know, an extra room for your grandma or your uncles, aunts. The pushback from single family neighborhood residents at this time just became really, really ugly. So, you know, this is just a quote that took from one of the council meetings back then. And it just I think it just says it all for me. Right. We fear the power that Hong Kong money wields. These people come with no concern for the past. They have no right to devastate the residential area. So in nineteen eighty eight, in response to these sort of concerns, the city sort of clamped down and increased the set back in height restrictions to prevent any more of these so-called monster houses monster. My girlfriend tells me that’s pronounced monster wrong, like with a G anyways. Monster monster houses from being built. All right. Next slide. OK. So in two thousand. Thank you. It took a bit more of a progressive step forward. They legalized secondary streets again, as well as laneway houses. And again, you know, do we witness? We saw like an incredibly vitriolic outrage from the community. And one that really shows how, you know, the single family neighborhood has become ingrained as one of our key value and our own culture. OK. And then finally, one sort of more recent example, the spy story apartment proposal in gets

L.A. being described as the ghetto. OK, so what I’m trying to sort of paint a picture here is really, you know, how difficult it has been to add any new density into Vancouver’s single family neighborhoods as a result of this sort of. You know, this cultural history, we have, this baggage we have around densification. And so to me, that’s the first half of the missing middle story. The second half is what happens instead when you have when it’s so difficult to add any new housing into established residential areas, which were not added there because of exclusion. What you end up having is huge, really dense developments and select and less controversial areas, areas like Vancouver’s EXPO lands. Here it is right there on the map or that photo. In 1988, the Expo Lands was a undeveloped, post-industrial site at the southern edge of Vancouver’s downtown peninsula, had a population of zero. Here it is today. That site now has almost 10000 housing units. And this is sort of a similar story that sort of happens across our region. That’s what you’re seeing with Brentwood Town Center. Right. Huge developments that are put up because that’s only really the only places where those new developments and that new housing can go. I think this Gordon Price, who is a former councilor for the city of Vancouver, describes it well. He came up with this term for it called the grand bargain. And sort of how I understand it is that. Let me see here like high. Huge density development in certain areas is politically tolerated. As long as these established single family neighborhoods are kept the same. All right. So that kind of like takes us to the present because, you know, this sort of grand bargain has worked pretty well for a city like Vancouver, actually. It’s really, you know, given it a lot of recognition on the international stage for urban planning. You know, geeks such as myself. But today, this sort of model of development has really result in some problems. The first issue being that we’ve built out most of these sort of post-industrial sites. Vancouver has very few sites, places remaining better, like the EXPO lands. So now that new development is going into lower income areas like Chinatown or purpose built rental building neighborhoods in Burnaby and these areas of, you know, these new developments. There’s so you know, there’s so massive and big. Right. They actually are huge, huge changes into the existing community, much more than something like a middle. Missing middle for development would do. And ultimately, you know, they don’t just change the character of the community. They they straight up evict people. Right. And ultimately, ultimately, that in Vancouver, I feel like we’ve created a socially and physically divided city. The single family house on the left, that housing takes up eighty one percent of the residential land in Vancouver. But that kind of housing is affordable to just 2.5 percent of Vancouver. Right. So everyone else. Increasingly. Most of us anyways, increasingly live in areas and corridors and, you know, to be hubs in downtown areas, the fringes of our community, where change is almost a constant threat. And where change is massive. That’s kind of the story of Vancouver, isn’t it? I see middle I want to say today, but now I’m going to wrap it up. I really like you know, the topic of the session was how we could have a more inclusive process for building our cities. And I think in order to do that, it’s important to understand what exclusion looks like, both physically and culturally in our own cities. And what I’ve learned from Vancouver’s example is that this exclusion is it’s really messy. Sometimes it’s obvious. It’s like people being afraid of Chinese opium dens and apartments. But other times it can seem like a pragmatic thing to do, right? Things like preserving character or setting a minimum number of parking spaces for new developments. But all that messy, complex reasoning for our hostility towards densification ultimately yields the same results. The results ultimately look the same. So as we talk about more, as we talk more about inclusive cities today, I hope my little story kind of helped remind us of some of the exclusionary history and regulations that we’re building on, similar to how Mr. Brooks, Albus Brooks sort of painted in his last presentation. So that is everything from me. I’ll stop sharing my screen if I can. There it is. Yeah. Thanks so much for for listening to me, guys. Yeah, I really appreciate.


Paul McKinnon [01:35:14] All right, well, thank you. I think we can all agree that was among. Good talk. And if they don’t appreciate you in BC, please come back to. Our next speaker session is Kimberly Diggins. Kimberly has had a pretty varied biography, which you can check out. This now brought her to the Washington Housing Conservancy in the sleepy little town of Washington, D.C.. In the last session, you got to meet the mayor of our city. And we are currently, as you mentioned, in the midst of a year leading up to a municipal election. Last week, we had a mayoralty forum with our three mayoral candidates ready for the first time that I can recall. All three of the candidates identified housing affordability as the top issue that they want to tackle. That simply hasn’t been the case. That’s been on the radar of our candidates in years past. That’s a seismic shift. But like most cities, it’s a huge challenge here in Halifax. And we need to share ideas for other places to understand how we can tackle that. So very excited to hear from Kimberly in her perspective. And she’s coming to us. As I said, from Washington, D.C.. Welcome, Kimberly.


Kimberly Driggins [01:36:13] Great. Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m so thrilled to be here today. I just have to thank T.J. McGuire in particular. He reached out. I know that he had invited me last year and I wasn’t able to attend. And I’m really thankful that you all decided to do this conference virtually this year. And also wanted to say that I feel like this is just a really great curated panel. I think this is the first time that I have been on a panel that was majority black, not just people of color panel on Placemaking and Halifax, Nova Scotia, nonetheless. So I think that’s great. I really enjoyed all the panelists in and you today learning about you. So not only is it the majority people of color, it also really focused a lot on housing. So I just think that the that the panels have been very well curated. I sat in on the first session earlier and listened to some of the experts talk about climate change and environmental justice. And again, that was an excellent talk. So I’m going to round all out today and I’m going to talk about a bit about myself and then really my new role.


Kimberly Driggins [01:37:37] So I wanted to start really by just talking a little bit about who I am. You know, I rarely start talks by being personal, but I thought it was important and to take Jay’s quote, place, making his personal. That’s so true. And I’m not to take that Jay from you. And in that vein, too, to talk about who I am, because it certainly drives my work and my approach and my philosophy to placemaking. So, you know, really quickly, I’m a Jersey girl, born and raised in New Jersey. I spent my entire childhood in suburban New Jersey and a small town about 45 minutes outside of New York City place called North Brunswick. And it was textbook suburbia, very homogeneous in terms of the community, predominately white area. And my parents were from the city. They they my parents my mother is from Baltimore. My dad was from a small city, Chester, Pennsylvania, outside of outside of Philadelphia. And they chose to raise their family, my sisters and I, in New Jersey, primarily for quality of life opportunities and reasons. And I’m a Gen Xers. So I’m I’m I’m a kid that grew up in the 70s and 80s, and that’s when cities really weren’t so popular. But I was always attracted to cities. I was always attracted to the multicultural aspects of cities and quite frankly, the density. I always found the city to be interesting. I was in Baltimore a lot as a child. I was in Washington, D.C. and I spent most of my time when I wasn’t in New Jersey, in New York, in New York City. And so New York in the eighties was also a time of great inequality. And I saw homelessness front and center. I just saw the disparities of of the very high income, very wealthy folks and folks that really weren’t doing so well. And I was just a very curious child and wanted to know why did that and why did that inequality exist? Why was there such vast differences in living conditions in and in America, in the US? So that actually drove my my drive and my interest in city planning. I actually went to school for public policy, urban policy. So I understood. A lot of the things that Albus presented around why? So The Color of Law is an excellent book. I learned that back in college and graduate school. But the built environment was a complete enigma to me. I didn’t understand architects and urban designers because they were really focused on form and function and less about people. So I made a pivot in my career and really started working directly with cities in city government and specifically in urban planning and development. I have 20 years of experience in both Washington, D.C. and Detroit.


Kimberly Driggins [01:40:55] I’ve worked in all sectors. But it is significant to note that I spent the majority of my time in city government and I have a special love for four city government, for local work. I think it’s extremely difficult. I think that it’s the most challenging environment because you have so many factors, not just first and foremost the residents that you’re serving, but also political, a political agenda at times that can sometimes be at odds with what is best for residents. So you see the special specialties there. I’m not going to read them off, but I will say that, you know, placemaking is an interesting term. I’d say that it’s it’s been a practice that’s been around long before the term. And like all of the speakers today, you you come at it from different perspectives and different disciplines. But at the end of the day, it’s really about community and making communities better and thinking about the connections to place. And just personally, my love of arts and culture, travel and yet soccer actually help drive my work. So just a quick facts about DC for those who are unfamiliar. I wanted to just give you some comparisons because I am a little bit of a data geek and two thousand in our population was just under six hundred thousand year 572. We stand today around seven hundred and two seven hundred thousand people. And I think the census will show that we’re probably closer to around 70 to 20000. It’s a city that was majority black back in 2000. It is not today. To my right, you’ll see the statistics on race. I’d say today it’s a very racially balanced city. African- Americans about 47 percent. We were 60 percent in 2000. So that is a significant decrease. We’ll go into some of those reasons. But I think that it’s not all due to gentrification. The D.C. region is also home of the largest black middle class in the United States. Maybe outside of Atlanta. I don’t know what the tradeoff between one and two. And so some of the the change in statistics for the black population wasn’t due to gentrification, but black middle class moving out of the city. And that was particularly true in the 90s and early 2000s and moving out to Prince George’s County. So gentrification is a nuanced story in D.C. Just look at some of the household income numbers. You can see the household income has increased significantly over the last 20 years. The housing complex composition has not. It’s largely remained the same in terms of renters versus owners. It’s more renters than owners. And today it’s about almost 60 percent renters. And that is that’s an issue in a high market city where rents are escalating and it sets up the reason why the Washington Housing Conservancy exists. And I get to that in a few minutes and really just some stats on the rate of displacement in the city. You heard from to make a butler earlier today out of L.A. and the U.S. cities that have experienced the most widespread displacement of low income residents is L.A. and D.C. And some of these stats, again, they’re really quite, quite alarming. And it’s one of the main reasons why I came back to my adopted home to help think about and try to solve some of the problems around displacement. So I wanted to give you my philosophy on on placemaking. You know, this is, again, these. These. Stations are not planned. What I’m going to touch on a lot of the things that the previous speakers spoke upon a little bit earlier. But first and foremost, it’s people focused. It’s not just about the built environment. Architects, landscape architects and even some urban planners. They focus has traditionally been around form and function of buildings in space and not focused on the people that inhabit those spaces. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but that’s all. That’s that’s the training traditionally of architecture schools that has changed in the last 10 years. And it’s become more human centered, more people centered. But historically, it has been about buildings and not people and Really focusing on people who live in the spaces and the places that you’re designing for and really giving priority to people’s lived experience. That’s the residents lived experience. So we’re planning with and not for community co creation. I’m a strong believer in that. And that’s that is has been a radical shift in the profession. And that seeding over that you don’t know everything going into a community and that the people who live there are actually the ones that are most informed and actually have some of the best ideas around how to improve community. And that makes a lot of sense. Be curious, creative and collaborative. The three Cs, as I like to call it, I really focus on these three things when I was in city government, city government, while I really enjoyed my time there. It can be quite frustrating place because government is very bureaucratic and sometimes people aren’t thinking outside of the box and, you know, just except accepting things as the status quo. This is the way that we’ve always done them. So I. I found that you had to be creative in your solutions with government. And sometimes that sounds like an oxymoron. I just happen to work for some very dynamic, creative, visionary leaders and bosses while I was in city government both in D.C. and Detroit. And it really takes that creativity to really move the dial and change outcomes for residents in a city. And it really is the government’s responsibility to bring that. I added collaborative mainly because government is notoriously siloed and agencies don’t always speak to each other or their systems within government and really want to break those down and work across agencies and across disciplines is so important and so critical to the work. In addition to being working across agencies, also thinking interdisciplinary across disciplines within the profession and outside of the profession, planners and architects and landscape architects have a particular point of view, and it’s valid. But our communities are challenged beyond the skill sets of these professions, and I strongly believe bringing in community activists, human service workers, mental health workers like social workers and educators are truly needed in planning processes. Because a lot of our communities, especially Kinney’s of color, especially low income communities, we’re dealing with a lot of trauma. And I believe that you have to be able to heal to be able to envision a different future for yourself. So those are really key things that I’ve learned over the course of my career to make successful, meaningful change in places. Which leads me to my next point of recognizing your blind spots. By definition, a blind spot is something you can’t see. So how are you supposed to recognize it? You you recognize your blind spot by surrounding yourself around people who don’t think like you, who who bring different perspectives, have different experiences that can help push you in your thinking and in your approach to how you’re solving a problem. You know, everyone has blind spots, including myself, but it’s the ability and the and and the humility to recognize that you don’t know everything and that you need people around you that think differently to help push innovation. That’s so critical in placemaking. And I find it’s it’s incredibly important. And lastly, going outside your comfort zone. This is really just about pushing your boundaries and putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. And that is not I’m not talking about physical danger. What I am what I’m talking about is we have a tendency to hang out with people that we like and the people that we know. And that doesn’t necessarily always push growth and understanding and empathy. My life has been a series of pushing outside my comfort zone. Being in environments that didn’t look like my own being in schools, that challenged me, choosing things that I wasn’t naturally good at. Helped me grow as an individual. And it’s something that I bring to the field when I’m thinking about people and residents. You have to have that ability to step outside of your circumstances and yourself to be a more empathetic place maker and planner. So I just I went to the punch line first with inclusive. My my philosophy. I want to now turn to my current job and how all of those things really come together. And as I said, I spent the majority of my career in city government. I have recently left the city of Detroit, where I spent three amazing, challenging years working for the city of Detroit and returned home to Washington, D.C. I am leading the Washington Housing Conservancy, which is a new not for profit. And we were established in. We were established in twenty eighteen. We were. We’re a response to the market and we bring private sector real estate expertize and capital with a social impact mission to prevent displacement and preserve housing, affordable housing, offering low and middle income workers rent stability and the opportunity to thrive and build wealth. To be very clear. We are a model that’s disrupting the market. We deal in the naturally occurring affordable housing space. So this is a privately owned real estate and it’s also unsubsidized, meaning it doesn’t rely on government subsidy like Section 8 loans or the low income housing tax credits. Many of the financing tools that build the majority of affordable housing stock in the US. We do not rely on. We rely. And I’ll talk about our financing in a few minutes. Our main mission is preserving long term affordability and we’re also not doing new construction. We are a preservation model. We are looking at existing mixed income apartment buildings in the D.C. region. So that’s in the city and and throughout the area. And we have a mission of social impact, mission of promoting economic mobility, particularly for low income and moderate income African-Americans and other people of color specifically. We know that traditional affordable housing, while it preserves and gives a person housing, it often limits one’s ability to make money. We call it the housing cliff. If you go outside the income band, you often lose the housing. We think that that’s a false choice. We believe that you should be able to have Long-Term Affordability without the income restrictions that would prevent you from improving your quality of life for you and your family and moving up the social and economic mobility ladder. So we are quite innovative, ambitious, and what we’re trying to do is speed up in the interest of time to make sure that I get to some of the key things.

But we are looking at preserving 3000 units, again, of naturally occurring housing, affordable workforce housing. We’re looking at high impact locations across the country or across the region. And I’ll talk about those in a few few minutes. I talked a little bit. This is our our theory of change. And you see, right in the middle are North Star is really around housing stability and in service of being able to allow residents the comfort and the ease of thinking about building wealth for their family and thinking that the long term affordability that usually comes with homeownership, we’re proposing for our our rental properties and for the people living in our properties. We hope to achieve our north star of the housing, stability and economic mobility by four key strategies inclusive property management, human capital development, creative placemaking and community building. It’s going to really focus on placemaking. And really the key here is that it’s not, again, just about the space and the built environment, but really about creating and fostering a deeper sense of place, cultural preservation and well-being. We feel that these four strategies are critical to enabling people to be successful residents. And really thinking about wealth building and wealth creation in our communities. We also plan on holding ourselves accountable. This is a draft of some of the metrics and some of the things that we’re developing and our social impact strategy based on the four key strategies. And our operating principles, advancing racial equity, inclusion. Front and center, Albus talked about this in depth around the structural racism that exists in our country. And that’s front and center in the work. And you have to acknowledge it to two and just and have it front and center to be successful, maximizing resident choice and voice and being adaptable. And these are some of the statistics around the rental market and the rent burden. Forty five percent of renters now spend more than 30 percent of their earnings on housing. And more than seventy two thousand households fall into that affordability gap, meaning they they don’t make they make too much to qualify for affordable for traditional affordable housing. But they don’t make enough to meet to be able to live successfully in the area without being severely rent burdened. And this is just going to get worse, given what we’re experiencing with COVID and we’re seeing increasing unemployment, we’re seeing we’re seeing groups. We’re seeing the benefits and protections expiring. With respect to housing and we see that rent people are not able to pay their rent. And that’s increasing at alarming rates. I will just take a few more minutes. This is talk about our structure. We have a social impact investing pool and they provide the second debt or mezzanine financing. The Conservancy, which is the organization that I run, is a not for profit. And we will be the owners and operators of the real estate. We also will be leading the social impact strategy. We have 16 million funds raised to date. And our goal is 30 million to be self-sustaining.

And we also plan to create a stakeholder council that will help with advocacy around affordable housing and workforce. And in this naturally occurring affordable housing space, the typical deal structure for social impact pool money, you’ll see that the point of the slide is just to show you really quickly how we finance the project. Our projects, one, it’s a traditional mortgage is the first loan and the impact pool provides mezzanine financing and the conservancy provides equity up to up to 10 percent. And this is just a look at some of the investors and the social impact pool that offers a seven percent return to investors, and you’ll see that it’s corporations, philanthropy, banks primarily. We’ve raised one hundred and ten million and our goal is one hundred and fifty for us to be self self-sustaining. And I talked a bit about where we’re working and Albus talked a lot about this. And so did you tie around where affordable housing tends to be located? We are actually looking at locations that are have above average population growth that are in areas that are close to employment centers, that have large rental housing stock available, that are mixed income. These are areas that are really hot right now and that the naturally occurring affordable housing is at threat of being lost due to the growing pressure on the market. And we know that place really dictates outcomes. So we are working those blue blobs represent where we’re working in the region. And you’ll see that most of them are along high quality transit, which is subway or high quality bus lines in the D.C. area. And I’m just going to end on the transformative trends that we hope to accomplish over time.

And these transformative trends really preventing displacement would be amazing. And displacement is already occurring. We’re hoping to help mitigate the rate and the impact with our intervention creating. And keeping neighborhoods diverse racially and economically and creating more equitable systems. The last few slides which will be available are really just about how we work and just the cross collaboration. And I wanted to just share that. We are working with the consultants, the Center for Mixed Income Communities, which is based in case Western University and and in Cleveland. They are one of the preeminent researchers on mixed income communities and mixed income housing. And they’ve been guiding our strategy work. So with that, I’m going to stop right there, stop sharing my screen. Thank you for your time. And I look forward to the Q&A.


Paul McKinnon [02:01:47] Well, thank you, can’t really. It was great. We’ll learn more about what you’re doing and how we can apply that in Halifax and other cities. So placemaking is personal, city building is divine. Hard to understand the history, to identify allies and accomplices, to stop empowering people. People already have the power and need to go outside your comfort zone. What’s your view of things that I jotted down during this amazing session? We’re unfortunate. Time is slipping away very quickly. We were committed to go to quarter after. I’m trying to avoid using specific time zones. Quarter after the hour, unless you’re in Newfoundland, in which case it’s quarter to the next hour or whatever. Anyway, you’ll figure it out when your screen goes dark. But until then, we’re looking forward to having a conversation with all the panelists believe that we’ve lost Rodney, who had a previous commitments, who couldn’t stick around for the panel. But we have our other panelists. And I know you can’t hear the cheering. I heard the cheering here in our lab room. We’ve got about five people here and people were cheering at home. So thank you very much for the words of wisdom. And let’s see if we can have a little conversation. We may only have time for one question, so I will try to make it a good one that you can all dig into. And so as we talk with the session, we’re talking a lot about, you know, the lack of engagement. This is something that’s that’s of concern, I think, to all of us. And as we’ve been thinking about this and talking to people that are involved, engagement, you know, even at its best, public engagement often involves, you know, well-meaning city staff who may or may not be really aware of any sort of historical context. They may be they may be new or junior. Typically, you’ve got a developer that’s that’s involved at developers there because they want to make money. That’s why they got into that business in the first place. You’ve got a community, oftentimes a community that’s that feels left out that maybe has been left out for decades and generations who, you know, has has been ignored. And so you’ve got, you know, perhaps lack of empathy for the city side. You’ve got distrust from the community side. So given all that for most of these projects, give us your ideas. How do we do a better job at engagement? And I would challenge you to be specific. How do we do better at this? Let’s start with with Jay and then we’ll go round. I want to get everyone’s thoughts on this.


Jay Pitter [02:04:08] Here we are. So what I would say very quicky is to ensure that engagement does not happen in the city hall or state buildings, take it to the streets, take it to the places where the development or the design is actually going to happen. Make it an embodied experience. You talked about people not. And I’ll give you a very clear example. You spoke about people not always knowing the history or what we would say is the cultural heritage, the intangible cultural heritage of a particular site. That would mean the rituals, the practices, sometimes the trauma, the celebration, the assets of a particular place. And so one of the things that I always do is that I begin by leading a public rock.

And I get people who live in the location to be at different stations. So they build, they do the research. They bring forward the oral history. They go and they do further research and they bring that forward. And we create a map around their place based knowledge. And we take the community out to rock and roll with those individuals. And so we begin not with myself or my team at the front of the room. We always begin in place. I’m centering the people who have local knowledge and expertize, using an embodied experience and storytelling.


Kimberly Driggins [02:05:46] I just want to echo and seconds and a min what Jay just said. I think the issue with that is, is getting people to engage in a process. I think it’s more than just meeting and this is meeting people where they are oftentimes planning doesn’t rise to the level of light critical. It’s not. It’s not. It’s not what’s at the forefront of people’s minds when they’re dealing with a lot of things. And so my experience has been about really trying to especially when you’re engaged in, like long term planning. It’s very hard when you have immediate needs and things that you’re dealing with. So the challenge is, I think, for us to to to make it relevant. And it might sound obvious to a lot of the panelists and the participants about how relevant planning is, but it’s actually a really abstract term and it’s not something that it could do. It can get really wonky really quick. So I’ll just say that, you know, you know, the nontraditional, the storytelling, the things that Jay mentioned, I think are really critical. But also look where you’re you’re holding these meetings like, you know, and we’ve we held meetings in people’s backyards. It doesn’t get any more personal than when a resident invites you into their home to have a a government meeting or a planning meeting to talk about a project that is happening in their neighborhood. And so we go when I work for the sea to where people are. And that could be cafes. That could be parks. That can be residential buildings. Having people host you again. I think I mentioned co creation, and I really believe in that. It is. It is. And I do feel that planners bring value. But I do feel that the lived experience must be respected and it must be part of. If not, that’s where you start. And I think that a lot of times we’re not good listeners. We might say that we are, but don’t necessarily think the profession. We think we know the answer. So I stress humility. It’s something that I’ve I’ve grown into over the course of my career. But when I was younger, I definitely was more arrogant about about what I thought I knew. And, you know, it really you have to step outside yourself and respect and bring a sense of respect and really listen before you start to go about the work. So I’ll just pause there.


Albus Brooks [02:08:34] I think these are real good thoughts and, you know, because I’ve worn every every hat. Right. The community organizing hat, the city hat and now the development hat. It’s really interesting. Here’s what I say. One is, if you have a plan, if you come into a situation or project, you say you have a plan, you’re already starting. But reach is is a formation and growing every day. There is new ideas, new communities, new contextual realities that you need to understand. Secondly, I think from a city perspective, planners are very technical in nature. And one of the things that we’ve talked about when I was in the city is that you’ve got leave the technical IQ, everything you’ve learned in it at your university, at the door. Just leave it there. This is about the ego. This is the emotional quotient. This is the understanding of how a community works. This is individuals in the community. You will get caught up right in a real community. And so allow yourself to experience that. And if you can get there now, that’s the beginning of what we’re starting with. And I think lastly, I would just say that it’s a bottom up approach. And I think everyone has kind of mentioned that here, that we really want to start from the places we want to start from the rec centers. We want to start bringing the youth groups, the churches that things like that, where there’s already access points and connection points and learn from those folks and start to present some of the things that we’re trying to do, some feedback we’re trying to get.


Uytae Lee [02:10:24] I guess I have the last word. This is no pressure. I can’t really expand to too much on what the other panels have said. Really important stuff to say. I mean, of course, I’m the video guy. I make videos . I mean, I think course videos are a great tool to educate people on what’s going on. Another little hot take. I think we should stop using the term like shape your city. Nobody knows what that means. Like, just like tell people what’s going on. I have a bit of a hot take maybe. I thought about this just for a second. You know, like knowing that the context of this conversation is around inclusion. Like, I think it’s not good enough to just think about an inclusive process. I think we should really be looking for inclusive outcomes. You know, planners as professionals, we know the exclusion that exists in our history and our policies. I think we should, as a profession have. I’m not a professional boxer. I have a planning degree. But I ended up going into journalism, so I guess I can’t call myself that. But, you know, I think as professionals, you should have the courage to really reconsider and possibly repeal some of these policies. These things get rid of single family housing, zoning. That’s my whole take. And that’s it.


Jay Pitter [02:11:35] I just want to add something to that. Let’s go beyond inclusion and actually hit some justice. And so this is where the profession needs to go. So, you know, it’s it’s sort of slowly rolling up on inclusion. That’s like pretty nineteen eighty seven we need to tap into twenty twenty. Going forward, we need to be trending toward justice and equity.


Paul McKinnon [02:12:02] It’s fascinating. The importance of the language that we use and how different words really resonate differently with different people, even between we’ve had conversations between the U.S. and Canada. It’s fascinating. So what we’re unfortunately at the end of our time. I want to leave with that with the very short snapper for each of you. So we seem to be living through at least four simultaneous crises at the moment. Health one, an economic one, a racial one and a climate one. That is probably more that I’m forgetting on a scale of it with a one sentence answer on a scale of one to

  1. How optimistic do you feel about the future of our cities and why go in any order that you like?


Jay Pitter [02:12:44] I’m a pragmatic optimist, and this hill is one that I really willing to die on. And so, you know, I and I and I think that there is an uprising and a movement of other people who are prepared to do the same. So it’s not so much optimism. It’s more of an unyielding, unrelenting, in documentable approach to ensure that change happens.


Kimberly Driggins [02:13:18] I agree with Jay. I am an optimist. I will. I’ve always been. I think that this time it is a bit different. Mainly because of what I’ve been seeing outside of cities. And when I look at small, suburban, predominately white communities that had been marching for black lives matter and how long the protests have lasted, this is months. Not a day. Not a week. So I feel like there’s sustained momentum. I think that the movement is bigger than just the folks that have been leading the fight, which are black and brown people. I feel like we’re finally seeing are our white allies and our white folks join us in more meaningful ways. So I feel I feel I feel optimistic. But I’m I’m an optimistic person. I’m pragmatic, but I’m always gonna look at the glass half full versus half empty.


Albus Brooks [02:14:15] I’m optimistic as well. So you got some optimistic, pragmatic folks. And I’ll just say that the arc of the moral universe is long and it bends towards justice and believe in better days are ahead, especially for me.


Uytae Lee [02:14:35] As a journalist, I think I tend to be more of a pessimist. I tend to look for issues and problems to highlight. But I know that all of that is in service to really trying to improve our cities. And I think that’s what we’ve got today coming out of this feeling super, super grateful and inspired by the conversations we’ve had. Thank you so much for hosting it. All right.


Paul McKinnon [02:14:56] Well, thank you. I want to thank all of you. This has been inspiring and educational and challenging. Thank you so much for participating. Of course, we have to think are our supporters and sponsors before we depart. So big thanks to develop Nova Scotia, Port of Halifax, downtown Halifax Business Commission, Halifax Partnership, Canadian Urban Institute, as well as the province of Nova Scotia National Public RelationsP Urban Capital, Turner Drake, Halifax Stanfield Airport. Placemaking X Rad Consulting FBN architects and MP Andy Filmore who is a person I want to thank you again. Thank you everyone for participating. And we do have another session that’s coming up. We’re taking a brief break now. Our next session is happening at five o’clock Eastern Time at six o’clock here in Atlantic, Canda. It’s a conversation with Eric Klinenberg. You don’t want to miss that. ere. So you’ll grab a beer or some wine you can put on your pajama tops. I already know you’re wearing pajama bottoms. And join us again in a little bit. Thank you very much.

Full Audience
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00:34:59 Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
00:35:31 Canadian Urban Institute: The conversations will be saved on & Art of City Building on YouTube. Thank you for sharing your observations and learnings – we celebrate engagement! #aocb2020
00:36:12 Canadian Urban Institute: Attendees: where are you tuning in from today?
00:36:22 Anna Melendez: Hello from NYC
00:36:33 Margaret Manifold: Burnaby BC
00:36:36 Niko Casuncad: Tkaronto
00:36:39 Maija Merriam: Hello from Ottawa
00:36:48 Rachel Gilbert: East Hants, Nova Scotia
00:36:58 Aimee Gasparetto: Halifax, Nova Scotia
00:37:00 Adele Kalinauckas: London UK
00:37:14 Toby Greenbaum: Hello from sunny Ottawa
00:37:14 Evan Carroll: Halifax, NS
00:37:16 James Glave: Vancouver, BC
00:37:16 Laura Keresztesi: Nogojiwanong/Peterborough Ont.
00:37:21 Morgan Vespa: Hello from Winnipeg, MB – Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Metis Nation
00:37:27 Randy Kay: Hamilton, Ontario
00:37:38 Andrew MArtschenko: Greetings from Toronto
00:37:42 Helen Hanratty: Halifax
00:37:48 Leandro Santos: Hello from Mississauga, Ontario
00:37:55 Fredrica Walters: Fredrica – Ajax, Ontario
00:37:58 Ozlem Atalay: Tallahassee, FL
00:38:04 Nic Huige: Hello from Vancouver, BC
00:38:07 Jerrica Gilbert: Hello from Sault Ste Marie, ON!
00:38:11 Uytae Lee: Hey hey hey from Vancouver and Halifax in spirit, dang I miss the east coast so much
00:38:16 Ruby Carrico: Hello from Vancouver. The traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh
00:38:37 Ryan Senechal: was that a paid political ad?
00:38:47 Canadian Urban Institute: Paul Mackinnon Rodney Small Youtube: Jay Pitter Albus Brooks Uytae lee Kimberly Driggins
00:39:02 Lester Brown: Hello from Toronto, Thank you for these interesting and educational sessions.
00:39:09 Beth McMahon: Hello from the unsurrendered land of the Algonquin, Anishinabek (Ottawa) and the Canadian Institute of Planners!
00:39:51 Gary Pieters: Hello Everyone, We are following and live twittering on twitter @antiblackracis1
00:39:51 Annalisa Raymer: Greetings from the Finger Lakes region from Annalisa at Cornell U in Ithaca, NY.
00:39:59 Uytae Lee: You’re too humble Paul, thanks for the intro!
00:40:17 Diego Almaraz: hi from Waterloo, Ontario – territory of the Neutral, Anishinaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples
00:40:32 Mary Corley: Hello from Oakland, California, USA
00:40:55 Purshottama Reddy: Hello, from Durban, South Africa and Toronto, Canada – looking forward to this session.
00:41:27 reg nalezyty: hi from Thunder Bay
00:41:58 Diego Almaraz: attendees from the US: random question – are land acknowledgments prevalent in the US as they are now here in Canada?
00:43:13 Ryan Craven: I live near the forks of the Deshkan Ziibiing.
00:43:22 Chas Wagner: good question @diego. not as prevalent in my circles. for context, based in Pittsburgh, PA.
00:43:29 Lester Brown: From the unceded territory of the Mississauga of the Credit. Toronto.
00:43:52 Diego Almaraz: thanks @Chas
00:44:45 Uytae Lee: wow
00:44:45 Andy Fillmore: Hi Elizabeth. Great question, “What is placemaking?” Here’s a great definition from the Project for Public Spaces:
00:45:03 Irena Kohn:
00:45:18 Irena Kohn: RDS vs. A Story of Race and Justice
00:45:38 Annalisa Raymer: @Diego, when I lived in Alaska, I saw it to be very prevalent (2007-2009). Here in the Finger Lakes of NY, it is not exactly unusual, but neither is it common.
00:45:52 Diego Almaraz: thanks @Annalisa! interesting
00:46:16 Mary Huang: so Halifax looking seriously at Community Benefits Agreement?
00:46:36 Mary Huang: I am part of LeBreton Flats Community Benefits Coalition in Ottawa
00:46:53 Mary Huang:
00:46:58 Anna Melendez: @Diego I agree with both @Chas and @Annalisa. In NYC where I live it is not very common
00:47:24 Mary Huang: please sign the petition if you agree with what we are asking for
00:48:10 Annalisa Raymer: @Mary Huang, what petition?
00:48:46 Annalisa Raymer: Found it.
00:49:10 Ozlem Atalay: hi @Diego, this is recently published at FSU-, but haven’t heard much around me in practice yet…
00:53:11 Paul Mackinnon: Great info. Please keep comments and questions (for panel discussion) coming!
00:56:29 Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to share their comments and questions with panelists and attendees. Thanks!
00:57:10 Purshottama Reddy: A question for Rodney :
00:57:57 Chris Chopik: I am interested to understand what the successful nudges were in the conversations with your engagements. Was there any specific language or approach to Which constituents responded positively?
00:59:35 Purshottama Reddy: My apologies : Question for Rodney : what were the challenges experienced in engaging the local Black communities; and how was this addressed ?
01:00:16 Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please change your chat settings to all panelists and attendees.
01:03:30 Farhana Abutalib: How will the proposed retail space be made more available to Black Nova Scotian business owners?
01:03:30 TJ Maguire, AoCB: Rodney Small
Acting Director, One North End Community Economic Development Society and Founding Partner of Ascension Grooming Dal

Documentary – RDS vs. A Story of Race and Justice (22min)

One North End Community Benefit Agreement (downloads):

One North End (Website)

ONE North End Startup & Training Program (NEST)

ONE Community Fund
01:03:40 Chelsey Andrews: Rodney- you said this design and engagement process was 6 year in the making… do you think there is any way to do this as authentically and as completely- but in a shorter amount of time?
01:04:16 Uytae Lee: Thanks so much Rodney, what a fascinating presentation. I remember all the discussions around the St. Pat’s Alexandria site when I used to live in Halifax. Really cool to see how the project has evolved since then
01:05:13 Asa Kachan: Thanks for your vision and leadership Rodney!
01:05:18 Mary Huang: leBreton Flats community benefit coalition peotition
01:06:06 Chris Rootsaert: In terms of the physical accessibility of these spaces and designs are their any individuals with disabilities consulted to help ensure proper barrier-free features?
01:10:22 Chelsey Andrews: Thank you Rodney. I really appreciate your passion- best of luck!
01:14:56 Sharon Ishimwe: PREACH!
01:18:37 Aimée González Ferriol: What’s the difference between ethical rule-breaking and civil disobedience? Thanks
01:27:00 Chelsey Andrews: Jay- how do we do the right thing when there never seems to be enough money? do we just go for it and make the rest of it happen by sheer force and passion?
01:27:02 Toby Greenbaum: great example of taking personal responsibility that Tamika Butler talked about this morning. Bravo
01:27:19 Faryal Diwan: That was really inspiring Jay!
01:27:24 Uytae Lee: Thanks so much Jay, huge admirer of the work you do 🙂
01:27:25 Leandro Santos: Thank you Jay!
01:27:29 Diego Almaraz: that was absolutely amazing
01:27:31 Nemoy Lewis: Love it Jay!!
01:27:32 ylana luigi: wonderful experience
01:27:54 Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding everyone to please change your chat settings to all panelists and attendees. Everyone wants to see your comments!
01:27:56 Nic Huige: Thank you Jay, that was an awesome learning experience!
01:28:07 Jackson Chabot: Thanks Jay!
01:28:33 Maija Merriam: Thanks Jay, that was inspirational!
01:28:41 Leandro Santos: Yup
01:28:42 Uytae Lee: yep!
01:28:45 Toby Greenbaum: yes
01:31:11 Angela Koh: Thank you for shifting the conversation so powerfully! I think you just articulated so well in that slide why I cringing a tad when someone talks about empowerment. Let’s be unapologetic about doing things differently 🙂
01:35:09 ylana luigi: but how we address those who insist that talking about colonialism and 400 years of history didn’t actually recognize. the fact that that history shaped out present social structure
01:47:49 Uytae Lee: Thanks Albus!!
01:48:13 Chelsey Andrews: Excellent- thank you for sharing Albus
01:48:22 Alexandra Lambropoulos: Thank you!
01:49:03 Mariela Alfonzo: Awesome, as always, Albus! 🙂
01:49:09 Constantina Douvris: Thank you Albus. i am inspired.
01:49:43 Andréa Callà: Thank you Albus – wonderful work, very inspirational!
01:49:47 Rose Nixon: These speakers, so far have been awesome. Some interesting perspectives and love the historic thread of why we are here in terms of urban communities but also the innovative views of where were are going towards better community planning.
01:55:44 Ruby Carrico: Planning memes are niche. Great job!
01:59:51 Lester Brown: Montreal was a bit of an exception to the ban on tenement and apartment houses. They allowed space for new immigrants to mix with older residents.
02:02:30 Lester Brown: What about Strathcona? it appears to have a mix.
02:05:05 Ozlem Atalay: @Uytae hi-thanks for the presentation! Do urban planning documents also have the definition of “family”?
02:05:39 Neelu Mehta: Excellent presentation and detailed information 🙂
02:05:57 Lester Brown: BC is lucky in that you don’t have an LPAT (formerly OMB) like in Ontario.
02:08:04 Tom Yarmon: excellent and relevant presentation. We are going through the same “missing middle” or yellow zone conversation now in Toronto, including Don Mills where I am active in our local community group. We have see these “grand bargains” also, including the start of development at “Celestica” the former IBM property into a community of eventually 15,000 people, and high rise condos in the old Don Mills shopping centre (now known as the Shops at Don Mills)
02:08:10 Ai Lim: excellent presentation, Uytae
02:08:19 Byung Jun Kang: Good job!
02:08:33 Leah Fulton: Great presentation!
02:08:44 Lester Brown: What are thoughts on City plan for allowing multi unit (I beaffordable.lieve 6 units on these single family lots with, I believe, two being
02:08:54 Kourosh Rad: Well done, Uytae!
02:08:59 Jay Pitter: Yaaasss sista!!!!
02:09:13 Jay Pitter: Kim D!!!
02:09:25 Andréa Callà: Thank you Uytae, interesting historical perspective.
02:09:41 David Crenna: Terrific presentation! Like you said, it helps a lot to see what it all looks like!
02:09:48 bill campbell: Well done Uytae!! Great to see and hear from you.
02:10:01 Rose Nixon: Great info and insight Uytae
02:10:11 Alexandra Lambropoulos: Great presentation! Thank you Uytae!
02:10:41 Lester Brown: Yes, thank you Uytae, great presentation.
02:10:49 TJ Maguire, AoCB: Thank you Kimberly! So thankful you could make this work. Can’t wait!
02:15:55 Hana A: Insightful presentation Uytae, thank you!
02:21:13 Rose Nixon: yes Kimberly. Planning for people not buildings
02:21:28 Margarita Pacis: I love to idea of co-creating with community. Would love to learn how to balance co-creation with those already living in a community with co-creating with and for folks who might not have access to that community! (thinking of Vancouver’s single-family zones that Uytae mentioned)
02:24:04 Albus Brooks: “Humility” we need a lot more of that as City RE-Builders. Thanks Kimberly
02:33:15 Purshottama Reddy: A very interesting local case – study.
02:39:03 Canadian Urban Institute: These conversations will be saved on & Art of City Building on YouTube. Thank you for sharing your observations and learnings – we celebrate engagement! #aocb2020
02:39:25 Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #AoCB2020 @AoCB2020
02:40:08 David Crenna: Kimberly’s pragmatic approach is very refreshing!
02:43:05 Canadian Urban Institute: Paul Mackinnon Rodney Small Youtube: Jay Pitter Albus Brooks Uytae lee Kimberly Driggins
02:43:51 ylana luigi: thank you all of you for your work and sharing so many excellent ideas and results!!!
02:44:24 Lisa Ditschun: This session has been incredible. Thank you to this exceptional panel – can’t wait to hear more and hope to meet you in person.
02:44:56 Anna Melendez: Incredible panel! Thank you all
02:45:03 Canadian Urban Institute: Thank you for participating in today’s Art of City Building conference! We hope you are enjoying the program. Please follow along on Twitter and Instagram @AoCB2020 and Facebook
02:48:08 Faryal Diwan: Thank you!
02:48:11 Maria Bravo: Thank you all!
02:48:18 Alexandra Lambropoulos: Thank you to all!
02:48:20 ella gindi: Thank you all!
02:48:23 Chelsey Andrews: Thank you to all the panelists! Amazing
02:48:26 Neelu Mehta: Thank you all 🙂
02:48:27 Cheryl Evans: Amazing. Thank you!
02:48:29 Lisa Chong: Thanks! So insightful
02:48:34 Chris Rootsaert: Great presentations, thanks all!
02:48:35 Heather Majaury: Thank you wonderful.
02:48:37 reg nalezyty: a wow afternoon
02:48:41 Olusola Olufemi: Thank you. Very informative session.
02:48:43 Jerrica Gilbert: Thank you presenters!
02:48:44 ylana luigi: wonderful and inspiring
02:48:45 Rose Nixon: Excellent. This was a great presentation.
02:48:46 Lester Brown: Thanks, a great discussion.
02:48:50 Faryal Diwan: Some truly inspiring speakers 🙂
02:49:00 Ozlem Atalay: thank you!
02:49:06 Leandro Santos: Thank you all for sharing your perspectives
02:49:07 Nic Huige: Thank you, all inspiring presentations!